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Dougie’s Monday Mailbag

24
Jan

FEATHERWEIGHT FUTURE

Hi Doug,
Well, once again both Yuriorkis Gamboa and Juan Manuel Lopez showed why they are must-see TV. Like anyone else, I can’t wait to see those two step in the ring to face each other. Of course we’d all like to see it happen immediately, but I can’t complain with Bob Arum wanting to wait and make the fight as big as possible.

The good part in having to wait is that there are a bunch of quality fighters in an around the division for each of them to fight. If they go the titleholder route, you have Chris John, Cristobal Cruz, and Elio Rojas; then there are the junior featherweights who could move up, like Celestino Caballero or Poonsawat Kratingdaenggym; and, if they wanted a more popular ‘name’ opponent, I could even see them going with the Vazquez-Marquez winner. Who knows what will happen in the coming months, but at least this past Saturday night got the ball rolling again and got us talking about actual fights and not fight contracts/negotiations. Thanks. — Jesse, New Jersey

Amen for that, Jesse.

This past Saturday was the start of the year for boxing for me. All the big-fight negotiations that played out in the press from late December through the first two weeks of January was just pre-season B.S. as far as I’m concerned.

The real boxing schedule began with real fighters in real fights. We saw two of the sport’s top young talents in action on Saturday and the performances of both Gamboa and Lopez exceeded my expectations.

I thought both men would win but I figured both would be taken the distance. Well, it looks like I wasn’t giving them enough credit. These young guns are the real deal.

I don’t mind waiting a little bit for an eventual showdown between the two but I don’t want to wait until one of them begins to struggle to make 126 pounds, or one (or both) has a poor performance against an interim opponent, before they finally face each other. In letting a fight “marinate” there’s always the risk that one of the fighters could lose or look bad, which obviously takes the luster off of the eventual showdown.

Then again, if one of them takes on a top-tier featherweight like Chris John, or a top 122-pounder like Celestino Caballero, I won’t be disappointed if either Lopez or Gamboa struggles (or even loses). I’ll just be happy that fights between the best fighters in two divisions are being made.

FUTURE SHOWDOWN

Hey Doug,
In a future JuanMa vs Gamboa fight, I have Gamboa by KO. JuanMa's is too slow and gets hit too much. What about you? — Stephen, Montreal

I see it as an even fight right now. I know Gamboa looked like Ray Robinson against Rogers Mtagwa. I realize that he’s the definition of dynamic. Gamby has phenomenal speed and power, but he’s still there to be counter punched. Mtagwa wasn’t the kind of boxer to do that. He’s a rugged free-swinging slugger who has seen better days. Lopez is a decent counter puncher who possesses good technique and heavy hands. The Puerto Rican southpaw can test Gamboa’s chin early and he may be able to capitalize on the Cuban’s mistakes better than lesser fighters like Darling Jimenez, Marcos Ramirez and Roger Gonzalez were able to.

GAMBOA-LOPEZ

Doug,
I'm really loving this slow rivalry Bob Arum is building between Gamboa and Lopez. I for one can't wait until these two young studs finally face off in the ring, but I like Bottom-Line Bob's plan of having his two 'destroyers' clean out the division before facing each other.

I thought Gamboa looked absolutely sensational. I know Mtagwa came in very light and he was moving up in weight, but still… Gamboa appeared to hurt him with just about every clean shot he hit him with. I thought if Gamboa had pressed him as early as the first round he could have ended things, I counted at least two times Gamboa backed off after stunning him. Gamboa appears so relaxed in the ring and so supremely confident. I think the Meldrick Taylor comparisons are on point as far as their speed and willingness to stand and trade when they could do otherwise is concerned, but Meldrick never had this kind of power…

Lopez looked more workmanlike against a more difficult opponent, but as much as Mtagwa was tailor made for Gamboa, Luevano, despite his skill of trade, lacked the pop and physical strength to answer any questions his previous fight raised. I still have serious thoughts about whether or not Lopez can hold off Gamboa at this weight. And if Mtagwa nearly knocked him silly, what will Gamboa's punches do to him at featherweight?

Can you explain to me how HBO — boxing's greatest network — can listen to Lennox Lewis and believe he's an asset in any way to their broadcasts? He is beyond bad, has trouble pronouncing the fighters names — when he remembers them — and never has anything to add. We — me included — used to kill George Foreman for some of his comments (“Shane Mosley can never be the true welterweight champion until he beats Six Heads LewisÔǪ”), but in between asinine statements, Big George could actually put together a coherent thought. I just don't get it and it’s not like Lewis is a beloved superstar like Sugar Ray Leonard (another gem).

When Max Kellerman first showed up in the studio on FNF, a lot of people used to rip and poke fun at him. I always thought his enthusiasm was good for the sport. I'm starting to suffer from Max Fatigue though. He really beats you over the brain with his points, but I'm not sure how much is his fault. Unless Bob Papa prompts him, I'm not sure Lennox would even speak. — Tom G.

When you’re talking about HBO, and the decisions the network’s sports division often makes regarding its boxing programming, you have to understand that the decision-makers don’t have hardcore fans in mind. They usually think in terms of casual fans, which they believe will translate into crossover appeal for their shows. So they’re always looking for the “human interest” story of the fighters and they usually want well-known personalities or “experts” to rep the sport on their broadcasts. Sometimes they find guys who are well known and respected who can deliver real insight (like with Emanuel Steward), other times, well, they’re going for the name. Lewis isn’t a household name in the U.S. like Leonard or Foreman, but most sports fans, even those with just a passing interest in boxing, know that at one time ‘Big L’ was the undisputed heavyweight champion of the world. That’s a big deal to HBO’s executives. What other networks that showcase boxing have the former heavyweight champ calling the action to their fights? None. And they like that. It’s as simple as that, my man.

I think Lewis does occasionally offer insight. He knows a lot more about the sport than he expresses on a regular basis but I think his personality prevents him from stepping on Papa’s or Kellerman’s toes. He’s not a know-it-all former athlete, and I’ll bet you that many viewers like that about him. Those viewers probably aren’t hardcore fans, like you, but once again, I don’t think the suits at HBO give a damn about what you think. They’re kind of like Bob Arum. LOL.

I agree that the big question most fans will have about Lopez when he eventually fights Gamboa is whether or not he can withstand the Cuban’s power. I think Gamboa’s speed should be part of that question. Daniel Ponce-DeLeon had plenty of power but he didn’t have the speed (or technique) to reach Lopez’s chin. Gamboa does.

However, Lopez has the kind of patience, poise and fundamentals to time a dynamic boxer-puncher like Gamboa.

I’m not going to go Gamboa crazy just because he blasted Mtagwa, who was softened up by Tomas Villa and Lopez. Nobody will admit to it now, but 95% of the hardcore fans I talked to or corresponded with LOVED Felix Trinidad over Bernard Hopkins before their fight in 2001. Why? Because Tito looked like a monster vs. Williams Joppy while B-Hop was merely workmanlike (and ugly) in out-pointing Keith Holmes in the first round of Don King and HBO’s middleweight tournament.

Styles make fight, folks. Don’t forget that.

WHO'S THE BEST CUBAN?

Nice article on the three Cuban prospects last week. I'm a huge fan of all three. They are going to bring a lot of excitement to the sport.

I was actually wondering about your thoughts on Guillermo Rigondeaux. I've watched a lot of boxing in my lifetime and when I watch this guy I can't help but think that this may be one of the all-time great counter punchers the sport has ever seen. This guy has ice water running through his blood and with his extensive amateur career it's clear he’s seen it all. He stands in front of his opponents as relaxed as I've ever seen as soon as there is the slightest mistake he lets go with pin-point accuracy.

Do you think he could not only possibly one of the next top fighters of this era, and possibly the best counter punchers of all time? Thanks. — Andy

It’s too early to tell if Rigondeaux is one of the best counter punchers of this era (let alone all time) because we haven’t seen him in with the top junior featherweights yet.

I’ll say this about him, he’s one of the best I’ve seen in recent years. His defensive ability is uncanny and it’s a major component of his counter-punching efficiency. Watching him spar with (smaller) world-class fighters and young prospects who are his size or bigger has been a joy. I’m not exaggerating when I tell you that 108-pound titleholder Rodel Mayol (who is a lot faster than most junior featherweights) couldn’t hit Rigondeaux with a single flush shot in four rounds of sparring.

I’m looking forward to watching Rigondeaux fight in the Friday Night Fights co-feature on Feb. 5 (the main event is the rescheduled light heavyweight crossroads match between Glen Johnson and Yusaf Mack).

Erislandy Lara is taking on Grady Brewer, the toughest opponent (on paper) of his pro career, this Friday. That 10-round bout, which is the co-feature to a Fox Sports Net-televised card, should be interesting. Brewer is a good gatekeeper when it comes to undefeated prospects. If they don’t have it, Grady will let us know.

And, like everyone else, I can’t wait to see Gamboa in action again. I’d love to see him take on the “real” WBA titleholder Chris John, or his No. 1 and No. 2 contenders, hard-hitting Daniel Ponce-DeLeon and slick-boxing Daud Yordan.

ARUM'S POST-FIGHT COMMENTS

Here's Bob Arum's comments after the Lopez and Gamboa victories:

“I know what people want and they can go [expletive] themselves,” Arum said with great exuberance. “I want to wait and build this to be the biggest featherweight fight of all time. It’s my job as a promoter to do that. When they fight, they’ll fight to be best featherweight in the world. I want to see those two clean out the division and I don’t want to see them rush to fight each other. There’s no way I want to rush and do this.”

Granted this fight would be bigger if both were more well known to the casual fan, but this is the overall problem with boxing. Arum himself put it out there that Gamboa and Lopez would fight in the future particularly if they were both to be victorious, but now he says he knows what the fans want and they can go f__k themselves?

This is the problem with boxing because guys like this don't care what the fans actually want to see and are too concerned about the business of boxing and what benefits them the most. This comment was pathetic and so is the fact that Mayweather-Pacquaio didn't get made. I blame this on Arum and Mayweather. — Mike, NYC

Me too. And you are absolutely right. Arum’s statement is an example of what is at the core of boxing’s ills. The power brokers — the promoters, network executives, managers, and star fighters — don’t give a damn about what the real fans want. This is one of the main reasons the sport stopped growing (in the U.S., at least) more than two decades ago.

I’ve said this before, but I’ll go ahead and repeat it, boxing could learn a thing or two from the comic book industry. Regular readers of the mailbag know that outside of boxing my only interest/hobby is comic books. What I like about the comic book publishers (and even the producers and directors of the big-budget Hollywood adaptations of a lot of comic books) is that they’ll go to the various conventions and listen to what the super nerds and ultra geeks have to say about the characters and story lines before they start a new publication or begin production on a film. They actually start with the hardcore fans, those grown-ass men dressed up like Green Lantern.

Now contrast that with the boxing industry, which at best takes its hardcore fans for granted and at times appears to have utter contempt for the loyalists. Arum has no problem referring to hardcore fans as “schmucks” on record.

Can you imagine Stan Lee going to Comic Con and addressing the thousands of fanboys there like this:

“What’s up losers! I know what you want to see in my books and on the screen, but guess what? You can all go and f__k yourselves! Ha ha! How ya like them apples!?”

It wouldn’t happen. Even if Lee really felt that way (and he doesn’t) it wouldn’t happen. It wouldn’t happen in any successful industry.

ARUM KNOWS WHAT PEOPLE WANT?

Dougie,
Given the quote, “I know what people want and they can go [expletive] themselves,” why should I want to watch a Top Rank card again anytime soon?

As compelling a match up “Pacquiao v the guy that jumped to the canvas every chance he got against Cotto” is, I feel like I'll be OK saving my 50 or 60 bucks. — T. Smith

Hey, if you want to say “f__k you” right back to Arum that’s what you do. You don’t give him your money.

It would be nice if some of my peers in the media would grill good ole Arum-ageddon they way they scrutinize everything that comes out of Richard Schaefer’s and Oscar De La Hoya’s mouths but it’s not going to happen.

Maybe these writers were just taught to respect their elders but I get the feeling that Arum could waltz out to a post-fight press conference and give them all the finger, tell them to f__k themselves and then bend over, drop his trousers, part his wrinkled butt cheeks and literally give them the “red eye” and they’d stand up and applaud him.

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